Damp mist was clinging to Skye this morning so we headed inland to find the Glen Shiel tops mostly clear of cloud; good result.
We opted for the classic Forcan Ridge and were rewarded with a truly apline day with a mixture of dry rock, mixed climbing and a fine snow arete to finish.
We skipped the usual descent east towards Sgurr na Sgine. Instead we doubled back from the summit headed directly north down the glen before traversing back below the cliffs to rejoin the approach path. With the snow so perfect it was an easy variation that was also far quicker.
Our descent was pretty much straight down the snow slopes from the peak before cutting out left.
The clients certainly seemed happy with it all:)
Broad Gully on Sgurr a Bhasteir is still holding plenty of well consolidated snow despite the thaw.
The mists still swirled around as we topped out so we skipped continuing up to the summit.
Descending to the lochan in Coir’ a’ Bhasteir we were greeted by the sight of 25+ members of Skye MRT all brandishing avalanche probes.
I’ve been spoilt with quality days recently but yesterday was right up there with the very best. Hard to say why but good company, a fresh covering of snow, an easy ice climb turning out to be serious, top out in the sun, knife-edge snow arete, blood-red snows and a moonlit descent all played their part.
The Amphitheatre held a huge dump of avalanche debris from last weeks washout.
As the mists cleared the ice pitches began to look pretty challenging.
4 sketchy pitches followed with just enough ice and protection to justify not reversing 200m of steep snow slope. The top-out was a relief combined with all the aesthetics of incredible views, sunshine and clear skies.
We opted to continue over the summit via the final 100m of the north ridge. This was the highlight as the snow arete dropped away on both sides and a combination of au cheval (leg either side bum shuffle), crawling and tightrope walking led to even more stunning vistas from the summit.
Descent from An Dorus still required concentration and effort but finally we were able to remove crampons and enjoy the darkening descent. Just as clarity was fading the moon provided an enormous burst of light rose from behind the Ridge; I genuinely thought that one of the guys had put a head-torch on!
Enjoy the gallery-
Mark and Brian were up to the challenge and everything went to plan.
Roping across the exposed snow on the Tourist Route was probably the most gripping and descending the same way unattractive.
Numerous exposed rocks offered up good anchors and the crest of narrow snow on the final 100m felt far less serious than what we had already crossed.
Weaving from side to side of the crest, mostly on rock, made the descent feel controlled but the final abseil came as a relief from the ankle twisting.
Descending together from Bealach a’ Bhasteir to the lochan was easier than I had feared and finally removing crampons on the lip of the corrie was like putting on a pair of slippers! Good day in the office!
The stunning weather today belied the serious nature of the snow conditions. Rock hard on the rise out of Coire na Banachdaich became a wee bit slushy on the descent to the foot of the Pinn and then deep and unconsolidated on sunny slopes by the end of the day. Not a complaint but, with a perfect forecast, it is certainly a warning to concentrate through the week ahead.
Enjoy the pics-
Cracking first day with James, Sam & Josh. Strong wind kept us away from the ridges but we made great time up Coir’ a’Bhasteir, dodged quickly through Bealach na Lice and sneeked up onto the summit of Sgurr a Fionn Choire without getting blown off.
Highlight of the day was the superb bumslide from the bealach which took us down over 1000 feet in a couple of minutes. The snow as just the right consistency but may be too hard in another day or 2 for such indulgence:)
Snow conditions are thinned out but what’s left is consolidating rapidly now that we have some clear skies. Shame all the ice washed away but there’s gonna be some great days on the Ridge ahead.
Rugby took precedence over blogging this weekend but below is a gallery of the 2 days out Paul, Martin & Damien enjoyed with early starts so matches weren’t missed.
Great Gully on Saturday was superb again with amazing ice formations hanging on the south walls. Harder work because of the snow that had drifted over from the north earlier in the week but it built up an appetite for the pub:)
On Sunday Sgurr an Fheadian looked quite black from below but was holding plenty of fresh powder which made the ascent pretty challenging.
With a blanket of fresh snow covering the tops Chris and I opted for an exploratory walk on the mainland today. Neither of us had been near Beinn Fhada so we parked up in Strath Croe and followed the beautiful stalkers path around the north side of the mountain.
It started snowing heavily again soon after leaving the car but half an hour later the clouds cleared to reveal a real winter wonderland. Most striking was the deep cleft of Bealach an Sgairne out to the north.
There are a handful of long routes recorded on the western most top of Beinn Fhada, Sgurr a Choire Ghairbh. Although it looked impressive soaring above us the white blanket and steep black buttresses suggested the routes here weren’t a good option.
Another hour of pleasent walking finally led us to the high point at Bealach an Sgairne and a great view out into the wilderness beyond.
Mullach Fraoch choire may be the Munro in the distance
Before we could even identify the peaks another heavy snow shower rolled in but we were very happy with our reconnaisance mission.
Failing to get up the hill, given todays forecast, was less of a surprise than the fact that we got more than 100 yards from the Sligachan. In fact the walk across the moorland was really beautiful with great views of all the hills, only a few wee gusts and even some sunshine.
This all changed dramatically the moment we reached the foot of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir as huge gusts seemed to compete with each other to get at us. Valiantly we tried to reach the foot of Broad Gully with a vague hope that it might give some shelter; stupid idea!
Short & sweet, momentarily far too exciting and far better than sitting inside all day!